Redundancy survivor

The year of 2020 was difficult to say the least; with a number of employers undertaking redundancy programmes, there was a heavy focus on supporting people who ultimately may have lost their jobs.

However, we often forget the impact this process may have on the staff that retained their jobs and that these ‘survivors’ will also need reassurance for the future and continued support in their roles.

What is redundancy survivor syndrome?

A redundancy exercise isn’t traumatic for just those employees who end up losing their jobs – it can have a severe detrimental effect on those left behind: the ‘redundancy survivors’. Therefore, survivor syndrome can be a common problem for organisations on the other side of a redundancy round.

The initial response from employees who have kept their jobs will be relief. However, once that subsides this often gives way to anxiety over the future. Reduced morale, motivation and increased absence are some of the known impacts stemming from this.

Employees who survive a redundancy programme have experienced a period, sometimes of several months, where their role and their future is uncertain. They will have seen their colleagues, who are perhaps also friends, notified of redundancy and this can often lead to a whole host of negative emotions.

What to look out for and how to address it

Individuals experiencing survivor syndrome often display a number of common behaviours and it’s important for employers to understand and be alert to the signs associated with it. These include:

  • low morale and commitment
  • reduced loyalty to the employer
  • reduced motivation
  • lower performance and productivity
  • increased stress levels
  • increased absence

To reduce the likelihood of survivor syndrome becoming a problem in an organisation, it is therefore important that employers take into account the impact of any redundancy programme on the employees that remain. It’s also worth noting that all employees in the organisation are likely to be impacted in some way by a redundancy programme – not just those whose roles are directly affected. There are a number of key principles for employers to bear in mind in addressing and lessening the impact of redundancy survivor syndrome on their workforce.

Communicating directly and openly

Clear and honest communication is critical. In situations where people do not feel informed, or worse still, are misinformed, relationships are likely to break down. It’s also important to acknowledge what has taken place rather than trying to brush it under the carpet.

Managing change

Several things are likely to have changed within the business over the course of a redundancy programme and staff will need to understand any changes to team structure and reporting lines. Processes and procedures may also have been affected so these may need to be reviewed and communicated to avoid confusion.

Establishing a clear vision for the future

Every individual will need to understand their role, responsibilities and what is expected of them moving forward. There may be extra demands made of them as workloads may have changed and everyone will need a clear understanding of the opportunities that lie ahead. A clear vision for the future will let redundancy survivors know how they fit into the business and its plans for the future. This is crucial to boosting morale, raising performance and allowing the business to move forward. 

Providing ongoing support

Individuals cope with redundancy processes in different ways. Some employees perceive change as a threat, whilst others see it as a challenging opportunity. The way they approach it depends on many variables, some of which will be out of the employer’s control. By providing survivors with support to cope with the aftermath of a redundancy process and offering opportunities for professional development, employers can reduce the likelihood of any negative consequences while demonstrating commitment to their teams going forward.

For example, employers could offer coaching programmes to assist employees in adapting to change, prioritising workloads, and identifying and managing stressful situations. Furthermore, many employers do not prioritise learning and development during redundancy programmes, however, offering opportunities for professional development is an important demonstration of commitment in their workforce. Providing employees with opportunities for personal development and growth and equipping them with the skills to manage their career shows them that the organisation values them and is taking a proactive role in their future development.

If you or your business would like some HR or employment-related advice, please get in touch.

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